Saturday, 18 January 2014

''The Renewal of Pope Francis'' - A Rebuttal.

In the Monday, 13th of January 2014 edition of 'El País' an article is featured entitled, 'La Renovación del papa Francisco'' which merits a lot of consideration, not in my view, as a result of the penetrating insight of the writer, Antonio Elorza, but as a consequence of what it reveals about the mind of someone like this catedrático from Madrid. He has joined the conga line of happy liberals proclaiming the allegiance of Jorge Mario Bergoglio to their cause to transform society and to be blunt, maybe these men and women have a point after all. Yet that is not the point of this rebuttal of Señor Elorza. I aim to show how true Christianity has been utterly decimated in the minds of such writers and speakers who have reduced it to a useless sentimentalism adorned with the occasional snippings from Sacred Scripture as they claim to have finally understood the significance of Christ´s person and mission.

 For those blessed with an understanding of the beautiful Castilian tongue, I attach the link to his ponderings on how Papa Francisco represents authentic Christianity.

 The subtitle of the article is particularly interesting as it concerns something much more fundamental about Pope Bergoglio than most journalists and academics have sought to discover. ´´The new pontiff has altered the relationship between sin and human freedom´´. I read the article on the way home from work on the train and I am certain I attracted a bit of curious attention from fellow passengers as I prodded the page with my finger and muttered ´no, no, that´s nonsense!´and I sighed and wondered how this man ended up as a university professor.

 I rarely read El País as it is the Iberian Peninsula´s version of The Guardian, containing the very same pompous self-satisfaction that only a bourgeoisie liberal could possibly possess, but as it is the only Spanish newspaper Edinburgh has on offer, I tried my luck.

 At the beginning of the article, he remarks that Pope Benedict XVI left a legacy of his dogmatic theology to his successor to promulgate in ´´Lumen Fidei´´ but now that that is over and done with, the real Francis may step out of the shadows as his own man. It appears to have bypassed Elorza that Francis was under no obligation to sign off on Ratzinger´s draft of the encylical and could have dropped it off in the cubo de la basura if he had so desired. I had initially thought as I read the article the first time that this was simply the case of another liberal hijacking Pope Francis and it was necessary to damn Ratzinger on the way. It occurred to me as I reflected on it more than the trouble the author has is not with Ratzinger but with the Christian faith as it actually is. For any honest Catholic, Pope Benedict was hardly some form of hardliner and who was completely undeserving of his media nicknames ´´God´s rottweiler´´ and the ´´Panzer Cardinal.´´ I doubt that his ideas of inter-religious dialogue, ecumenism and religious liberty are much more different from the current occupant of the Throne of St. Peter. More subtle and restrained maybe, but of the same species. A obscurantist intregrist he was not.

 I particularly find Elorza criticism of Pope Benedict´s work to be baffling as he considers it unfavourably to be ´´a forest of biblical quotations and from St. Paul´´ and he is entirely damning of Ratzinger´s ´´dualistic vision´´ of the world. The dreaded ´´dualism´´ of Ratzinger is not peculiar to him. It stems from the heart of the Gospel. It manifests itself very openly in the words of Christ. Concerning those who believe in Him and those who reject Him. The reward of the just and the eternal perdition of the wicked. Christ´s warning that few would be saved. The fact He spoke more about Hell than Heaven. The scorn with which He was treated by the authorities of His day who ended putting Him to death.  Christ obviously did not understand Himself. Nor did He understand that people would be put off by His harsh words. I imagine Elorza like so many of his ilk, walking away from Christ as they mutter ´´this is a hard teaching, who can accept it?´´ as so many did upon hearing the Eucharistic teaching of Our Lord.
 St John´s words in the prologue to his Gospel when he proclaims that the Logos came to His own and was not accepted but to those who did believe in Him, He gave power to be sons of the Eternal Father. St. Paul´s warning that those who indulge in a series of grievous sins that he has previously outlined shall not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. His stark doctrine to the nascent Church that the believer fights not against flesh and blood but against the powers and principalities that dominate this fallen world. The lake of sulphur in the Book of Revelation, the threat of Christ to take away the lamp stand of those who grow lukewarm in His love. The whole of the New Testament of Christ manifests with great clarity the wickedness of this world and how the Christian must make use of the faith and grace given to him to attain salvation in fear and trembling. This is reflected in all the great Fathers of the Church and in the eminent Doctors of the Faith. They were not foolish enough to believe that we may reasonably hope that all men be saved. The fundamental extra-biblical theological authority in Pope Benedict is St. Augustine who ultimately, regardless of your sentiment, faithfully reflects the teaching of Scripture on matters of faith, grace and salvation. For the Bishop of Hippo, all men are deserving of damnation, a mass of sin,  but due to the loving mercy of God, completely undeserved by us, the Logos became incarnate to assume sinful flesh and offer propitiation on our behalf to the Eternal Father. Meditating on the facts of that, always upheld by the Church, will grant to the believer a greater love of God and of man, than any sentimental optimism about the dignity and goodness of humanity. If Pope Francis wishes to hurl the charge of ´´Promethean neo-Pelagian´´ at anyone he can start with thinkers such as Elorza. The modernist mind is perplexed before such realities as the necessity of grace and the fact that men truly do evil that deserve divine justice. In an attempt to be pious, they have distorted Christian hope and devalued it through a naive and ethereal good will and voluntary blindness. The true Christian vision is too bleak and therefore a barrier to entice the average man to know the Lord Jesus and His ´love´. 

Furthermore, his criticism of the Church as a ´´fortress´´ is on the whole laughable. He instead wishes for a ´missionary´Church which he believes Francis properly incarnates in his simplicity and humility. One may ask why the Church should bother to be missionary if the world is running fine on its own course of social and moral progress? Elorza´s missionary Church is entirely useless to counteract anything and can only morph into a humanitarian organization which used to have a quaint set of traditions. If the culture can represent goodness, truth and justice, the Church may actually be a burden to man. In this conception of the Church, there is no need for a fortress as there is nothing worth guarding.

  We then come across what particularly offends Elorza, ´´the faith is not a matter for the individual´´. Ratzinger in his life´s work clearly outlines the truth that we receive not the Faith as a heavenly ray alone but from the bosom of the Church. The Scripture was written by the early Christian community and handed on, later to be granted recognition by the Catholic Church as divinely inspired. No man baptises himself. As St Paul states, ´´How can they believe if they have not heard?´´ As St. Augustine relates, faith is based upon knowledge. A knowledge that can only come from the proclaiming of the Gospel by the Church, the assembly of believers. Unfortunately, the realization of this fundamental truth would harm Elorza´s point, namely, the primacy of the individual conscience. He is entirely modernistic, naturalistic and Pelagian in his understanding of the world and man´s place in it. He is, of course, much more sentimental than the monk from the British isles but is still wrong. Our author is certainly ´´a son of the spirit of Vatican II´´ and maybe some form of offspring of the authentic Council as well. He praises John XXIII´s and Paul VI´s attempt ´´to decide to look towards the future with a modern spirit and open themselves up to modern culture´´. I certainly wonder how those two pontiffs would have viewed their legacy of opening up to modernity. Paul within a few years was already lamenting the ´´smoke of Satan´´ that had entered the temple of God through some fissure. How would he react now to homosexual ´´marriage´´ and the entrenchment of abortion on demand in these ´modern cultures´? A set of cultures where God is banished and derided in the name of reason, science and liberty. These and so much more are the fruits of opening up to the spirit of the world and no Christian can have a reasonable hope that we shall be prevented from much worse. 

  Pope Francis is for him ´´an invitation to unbelievers´´ to walk the way together. It is almost as though the vital vision of faith in the light of eternity is ultimately unimportant to considering the dilemmas of the age. With simple good will, godless and goodly alike may come together to make the world a better place. Who could possibly disagree with that? An honest Catholic could. Such would be a foolish enterprise to suggest that the Christian should abandon the urgency of conversion and the realisation of the wickedness of this world to lay the foundations of concord among men which would most certainly be along the lines of modern secular humanism. It is in the words of Elorza, ´´a pluralistic conception of a Church open to social reality´´. A modern cliché to be sure and as dangerous to the divine institution of the Catholic Church as it appears to be so generous and loving. This is supposedly ´´the spirit of the Gospel´´ which excludes nobody. But to be honest, it excludes nobody as it calls nobody. It is more than the demythologizing of Scripture but the dethroning of the rights and sovereignty of God to create a anthropocentric model of the world. He bluntly states that Francis has modified the relationship of sin and human liberty but has taken no effort to lay out exactly how. He simply denies original sin and its effects on us and reduces it entirely to some form of battle of conscience within us ´´within the framework of an optimistic anthropological conception´´. At least he is honest enough to admit that the point of reference of Francis is not St. Ignatius´ Spiritual Exercises.

 ´Sin has been suppressed´´. Man is now free. Free from what? The laws of God. Free for what? To advance the jurisdiction of the devil over man. I find it odd that Elorza considers Francis to have banished Satan from Christianity as it seems to current Pontiff has spoken about our enemy far more frequently in such a short period of time than Benedict did in his whole pontificate. However, in my opinion, to Elorza and others like him, Francis is a pawn to be used for their own ends. The pope is hardly blameless in all this through this prevarications and ambiguity but he would be appalled by this writer´s interpretation of him.

 In conclusion, what we have here is another attempt by a secularist to claim Francis to his side. For him, Christianity has to be stripped of the rights of God, of divine revelation, of the Fathers and Doctors in order to be converted into a sentimental humanitarian organization of naive fools. Let us not be deceived.

Until He come,




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